Survey — Amadeus uses financial incentives, gains US travel agency market share

astagdsAmong the four major global distribution systems, Sabre is the most widely used among U.S. travel agencies, although Amadeus is the fastest growing.

Those are some of the findings in the just-released American Society of Travel Agents’ Global Distribution System (GDS) Report, which surveyed 400 ASTA agency owners and managers between January and October 2009.

In 2009, according to the survey, Amadeus grew its 2009 market share 17.8% to a second place 26.8% share among ASTA member agencies.

The most widely used system, Sabre, saw its hold on the market decrease 4.5% in 2009, when compared with the previous year, to 31.5%.

And, the two Travelport-owned systems, Galileo/Apollo and Worldspan were the fastest falling.

Travelport’s Apollo system [which is used by agents in the U.S., Canada and Japan] saw its U.S. market share decline 9.9% to a third place 22.6% share.

And, Worldspan’s market share dipped 9.4% to its fourth place 19.1% share among the GDSs.

Changing GDS systems is not done lightly because it involves major tech changes and much retraining.

“Amadeus has the highest number of agencies that have switched in recent years,” the ASTA report says. “The primary reasons they switched to Amadeus was for lower costs and higher financial incentives.”

So, Amadeus appears to be very aggressive in the U.S. GDS market these days, tossing around money to coax system switches and contract extentions to up its U.S. market share.

In fact, Amadeus was most likely among the four GDSs to provide agencies with financial incentives when signing a new GDS contract.

Amadeus provided financial incentives 42% of the time when signing up agencies, compared with 37.1% for Travelport’s Apollo system, 19.3% for Travelport’s Worldspan GDS, and 18.1% for Sabre, the report found.

It is interesting to note that Travelport, which acquired Worldspan in 2007, is condiderably more likely to provide agencies with incentives when they sign Galileo/Apollo contracts than when signing on with Worldspan.

Overall, ASTA says, GDS usage has declined 19 percentage points since 1999 to 79%.

Among the reasons, of course, airlines eliminated base commissions to many agencies in the interim, forcing agencies to become less reliant on air and GDSs for their livelihood. Many agencies went out of business, and others became cruise-only, for instance.

Of course, other factors include the rise of the Internet and Web-based inventory, and a sharp reduction in GDS incentives per segment since 2007 when major U.S. airlines renegotiated the fees they pay to the GDSs.

In 2008, 60% of survey respondents said they received credits and/or incentives from their GDSs when they booked more than was required.

But, that number fell in 2009 to 45.7%, the survey found.

Sabre (54.5%) was the most likely to provide such credits and incentives to agencies, followed by Amadeus (43.8%), Worldspan (41.2%) and Galileo/Apollo (34.2%).

Although most U.S. airlines ceased paying base commissions to travel agencies around 2002, the ASTA survey notes that 25.6% of respondents in the 2009 survey receive segment-based incentives from legacy airlines. The incentives average $0.83 per segment — which is way down from pre-2007 levels before the airline renegotiated their GDS contracts.

Some 13.6% of agency owners and managers report their agencies receive segment incentives from non-legacy carriers, averaging $1.15 — higher than the legacy carriers dole out.

And 21.5% of respondents receive incentives from hotel, car, cruise and other travel suppliers, averaging $1 per segment, the ASTA survey found.

ASTA says that more than 75% of respondents indicated they were very satisfied or satisfied with their GDS vendor, and Sabre got the highest marks.

In sum, Sabre had the highest U.S. market share in 2009 among the four GDSs at 31.5%.

That’s unless you combine the market share of the two GDSs — Galileo/Apollo and Worldspan — owned by Travelport.

Looking at the numbers in that way, Travelport GDS is the leader in agency market share and would lead the pack at a combined 41.7%.

However, Amadeus is an up and comer and expanding the fastest in the U.S. with a 26.8% share.

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Dennis Schaal

About the Writer :: Dennis Schaal

Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.



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  5. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

    This issue of rising incentives represents an interesting conundrum for the world. If we look at just Travelport – they have just reported a major jump in incentives paid out to agents, significantly out of proportion to the increase in both transactions and revenue during the same period. Yet they are posting the biggest user decline in the USA. The obvious conclusion is that the smaller agencies (ASTA members) are losing their incentives at the expense of the bigger agencies in particular the online players (whose market share is also growing). Thus the smaller agencies efforts can be seen to be cross-subsidizing the larger agencies.

    There is another factor which the report does not seem to touch on – but it is the true cost of service provision. Perhaps ASTA should be asking one additional question – which to me is an increasingly important one – is the cost of the use of the GDS. Has this risen in the past year. I have spoken to several agencies (so this is anecdotal, and not statistically proved but reliable data) who point to specific charges for services that used to be free and/or included. Now these represent a net increase in costs.

    These charges range from new charges for existing services such as calls to the help desk to more rabid enforcement of certain rules (like thresholds in look to book). New product charges are becoming the norm according to several different agencies. For example pricing products that might be new functionality but replace existing functionality are now chargeable.

    Make no mistake the GDSs seem to be on a mission to boost revenues to pay for increased incentive costs. This study could be interpreted that incentives are falling. The financials of Amadeus and Travelport would indicate otherwise.

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